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An investigation into vocal expressions of emotions: the roles of valence, culture, and acoustic factors.

Sauter, D.; (2007) An investigation into vocal expressions of emotions: the roles of valence, culture, and acoustic factors. Doctoral thesis , University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

This PhD is an investigation of vocal expressions of emotions, mainly focusing on non-verbal sounds such as laughter, cries and sighs. The research examines the roles of categorical and dimensional factors, the contributions of a number of acoustic cues, and the influence of culture. A series of studies established that naive listeners can reliably identify non-verbal vocalisations of positive and negative emotions in forced-choice and rating tasks. Some evidence for underlying dimensions of arousal and valence is found, although each emotion had a discrete expression. The role of acoustic characteristics of the sounds is investigated experimentally and analytically. This work shows that the cues used to identify different emotions vary, although pitch and pitch variation play a central role. The cues used to identify emotions in non-verbal vocalisations differ from the cues used when comprehending speech. An additional set of studies using stimuli consisting of emotional speech demonstrates that these sounds can also be reliably identified, and rely on similar acoustic cues. A series of studies with a pre-literate Namibian tribe shows that non-verbal vocalisations can be recognized across cultures. An fMRI study carried out to investigate the neural processing of non-verbal vocalisations of emotions is presented. The results show activation in pre-motor regions arising from passive listening to non-verbal emotional vocalisations, suggesting neural auditory-motor interactions in the perception of these sounds. In sum, this thesis demonstrates that non-verbal vocalisations of emotions are reliably identifiable tokens of information that belong to discrete categories. These vocalisations are recognisable across vastly different cultures and thus seem to, like facial expressions of emotions, comprise human universals. Listeners rely mainly on pitch and pitch variation to identify emotions in non verbal vocalisations, which differs with the cues used to comprehend speech. When listening to others' emotional vocalisations, a neural system of preparatory motor activation is engaged.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: An investigation into vocal expressions of emotions: the roles of valence, culture, and acoustic factors.
Identifier: PQ ETD:592358
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1445045
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